Two months ago, you may recall, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo won the race to enact new gun restrictions following the Sandy Hook massacre, beating every other opportunistic, grandstanding politician in the country by signing a bill that was passed so fast legislators had no time to read it. One consequence of that unseemly haste, I noted a few days later, was that legislators forgot to exempt current and retired police officers from the new rule for magazines, which reduced the maximum number of rounds from 10 to seven (because, as Cuomo explained, "nobody needs 10 bullets to kill a deer"). The ensuing outrage at the lack of a double standard revealed not only that cops take their special rights for granted but also that they do not believe the magazine limit—which they support for "regular citizens"—will have any impact on criminals. Now Cuomo has noticed another problem: Before imposing his arbitrary ammunition limit, he did not bother to check on the availability of seven-round magazines. It turns out "there is no such thing as a seven-bullet magazine," he said at a press conference yesterday. "That doesn't exist. So you really have no practical option."
That's a slight exaggeration. Seven-round magazines do exist, just as three-wheeled cars exist, but they are not standard. Last month the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle noted that "gun manufacturers have not had much reason to make a magazine with fewer than 10 rounds, except for limited uses, because no state required it until now." Based on interviews with gun dealers, the paper reported that "there are no manufacturers planning to make special seven-round magazines to serve the New York market." The new magazine limit takes effect on April 15.
The governor's solution: change the law so that people are once again allowed to buy 10-round magazines but make it illegal to put more than seven rounds in them. I swear I am not making that up; it is already the rule for previously owned 10-round magazines, which are legal as long as they contain seven or fewer rounds. Putting in that eighth round is a violation punishable by a $200 fine for the first offense and a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, for a second offense if the magazine stays in your home; if you walk outside with it, that eighth round could cost you up to six months in jail for the first offense and up to a year for the second.
Richard M. Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, objects to Cuomo's proposed accommodation. "I think the governor and the Legislature got it right the first time," he tells The New York Times. "We don't want to have to tell the mother of a young man who's just been shot and killed that he was killed with the ninth bullet."
Stephen J. Aldstadt, president of the Shooters Committee on Political Education, also perceives a flaw in Cuomo's proposal, which he calls "the most asinine thing I've ever heard." But Aldstadt's objection is somewhat different from Aborn's. "Any person who is going to go commit a mass shooting like Columbine or Sandy Hook is certainly not going to pay attention to a law restricting magazines to seven rounds," he says. "The only people who would possibly obey that law are legal gun owners, and they're not your problem."
As I wrote in January:
It is implausible enough to suggest that a criminal—who by definition has no compunction about breaking the law, who is not legally permitted to possess firearms to begin with (if he has a felony record), and who is highly motivated to obtain the tools of his trade—would be deterred from obtaining a 10-round magazine by the legislature's new dictate, especially since plenty of them will remain in circulation. It is beyond fanciful to suppose that, having obtained a 10-round magazine, a criminal would think twice about putting more than seven rounds in it because legislators said he shouldn't.
But this is the sort of magical thinking that passes for reasoning among advocates of sensible, common-sense gun control.